PLATFORM/Field of dreams?
Washington, D.C., officials currently are lobbying Major League Baseball to relocate the Montreal Expos franchise to the nation’s capital. The city is offering to entirely fund the construction of a new stadium for the team. The money would come from stadium-related sales taxes and from a business tax imposed on the largest private companies in the city. American City & County recently asked readers of its e-mail newsletter if local governments should finance the construction of sports stadiums and arenas. Below is a sampling of responses.
“What happens when the economy slows and the average fan realizes they can’t pay $165.00 for two tickets, parking, food and drink? Couple that with a mediocre team and reduced media revenue and ticket sales, and what do you get? You get restructured debt and a municipal black eye. Let the teams and the league work out the financing and construction. The most a municipality should contribute is a reduced sliding scale tax assessment over 15 to 20 years and other meager incentives to help attract or retain a professional team(s). In these days of municipal cut backs, we should not be in the business of subsidizing mega wealthy owners and athletes.”
— Hank Farnham, vice president, Barnstable, Mass., Town Council
“I don’t see a problem with local governments financing sports stadiums as long as such use of tax dollars eventually provides a “quid pro quo” return to the taxpayers in the form of greater business volume and increased tax base. However, the only governments that should entertain such a public financing notion should be the governments of those taxpayers who will eventually receive those benefits. I very strongly oppose state governments (for example) doing the same thing. In those cases, most of the taxpayers so “tapped” receive zilch from the venture. Missouri tried to finance a new stadium for the St. Louis baseball team. It was not well received by anyone outside the metro area and never got off the ground precisely for that reason: The only beneficiaries were the people in the immediate St. Louis area.”
— Jerry Goff, director, Franklin County, Mo., Emergency Management Agency